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Story by Jack Baruth, photograph by Sideline Sports Photography
Nearly two decades ago, I had the unique privilege of attending Dr. John Romano’s ENG 131 class at Miami University. I say “privilege” because Dr. Romano taught me two important things. The second thing he taught me was that standards matter. Although I had received an “A” on every paper I had submitted in his class, he gave me a “B” at the end of the semester. Why? It was simple: he’d indicated that it was unacceptable to miss more than two classes, and I had missed three. Why had I missed three, you ask? I was in the hospital with some grotesque cycling-related injury. When I explained this to him, he explained to me that his expectations did not come with pre-printed excuse notes for “hospitals, sniffles, and unrepentant laziness”. This “B”, one of two I would receive during my time at the English Department at Miami, served as a harsh introduction to the real world, where nobody wants to hear your excuses.
The first important thing Romano taught me came during his lecture on the opening of The Canterbury Tales. “Ah, spring,” he sighed, “it promises so much, and delivers so little. Not unlike, I would say, many of you young ladies in this audience.” The reaction in the lecture hall was closely akin to what I suppose it would have been had Romano produced a Labrador puppy from one of the folds of his voluminous tweed overcoat, held it up to the sky, and snapped its neck. The shocked silence lasted for what seemed hours before the bespectacled, bewhiskered old professor smiled and resumed reading Chaucer in his ragged, creaking baritone. It would take me several dinner dates and a long “study session” with one of my distaff ENG 132 classmates before I realized that Romano had it exactly right. The payoff rarely meets the promise; the juice usually isn’t worth the squeeze.
Not so today, dear readers. I’ve promised you something simple: that if you read, comprehend, and implement the suggestions in this column you will, I repeat, absolutely will go faster. For many of you, the resultant benefits will exceed anything you could gain by spending thousands of dollars tuning your car; thus the photo above of a beautiful, fully-prepared, track-dominating 350Z being snuggled-up to by an absolutely bone-stock fifty-two-hundred-pound luxury sedan in VIR’s infamous Climbing Esses. I intend to deliver on this promise, so take a moment, clear your mind of your losses in the stock market, the pressures of work, and the burning question of whether or not Vanessa Hudgens was actually just fifteen years old when she took that camera-phone photo, and let us continue as Dr. Romano would wish: slowly, carefully, and with attention to detail.